A couple weeks ago, those Stephen Colbert fans who sport “Colbert/Stewart ’08” shirts were given a brief glimpse of their dream when the satirical host announced on his show "The Colbert Report" that he would run for president in South Carolina. But just how serious is he?To begin with, Colbert is running for both the Democrat and Republican nominations, but only in South Carolina. Hee says he understands that the likelihood of winning, stating on "Meet the Press" "I don’t want to be president. I want to run for president. There’s a difference,” while later saying "I’d like to lose twice. I’d like to lose as both a Republican and a Democrat." Colbert also stressed, seemingly in a moment of truth, that he’d be satisfied to win a single delegate and perhaps parlay that into a speaking slot at one of the conventions. That’s surely a more realistic outcome.
It doesn’t take a political genius to tell someone that this is beyond unusual. But anyone who saw Robin Williams in "Man of the Year" or happened to know that commentators compare the Colbert candidacy to that of Ralph Nader and Ross Perot, then it’s not so odd. Celebrity candidacies are not as rare an occurrence as one might think (see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura). After all, a large and often overlooked aspect of a candidate’s success is name recognition.
After Colbert announced, a D.C.-based Republican polling firm did a sample poll of how the Colbert candidacy would affect the South Carolina primary. The poll consisted of 1,000 likely voters in a 2008 primary that included Colbert’s name in both Democrat and GOP polls. In the mock Democratic primary, Colbert took 2.8% of the vote, coming in fifth behind Hilary Clinton (40%), and ahead of Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.
The Colbert Nation website has a poll for a running mate, giving the options of Jon Stewart, Colbert himself, Vladimir Putin, Mike Huckabee, or no running mate. Currently, Stewart is ahead in the poll with 52%. Colbert’s campaign website, provides links to download the petition to get his name on the South Carolina primary ballot and encourages volunteers to obtain 20 signatures.
While some may question how serious Colbert’s candidacy is, he clearly has generated a great deal of excitement. The "Stephen Colbert — One Million Strong” Facebook group boasts 1.2 million members, amassed in a little over a week. The Barack Obama group has only about 380,000 members after months on the campaign trail.
Colbert’s candidacy is essentially making a point. He’s unsatisfied with candidates on both parties and is making a stand for democracy. If there is anyone who is suited to sharpen the debate, it’s Stephen Colbert.